I wish I hadn’t…
by B.B. Pelletier
Our blog reader pcp4me suggested this topic; and since I spent both Saturday and Sunday at the Dallas Arms Collector’s show (it’s a tough life), I wanted something that didn’t need a chrono, a range or lots of pictures. So, this report is one of my laments that will start all you veteran shooters crying in your beer. It’s the story of guns I’ve loved and lost.
Yes, I’ve done this before and, no doubt, there will be some repeats. But, because I’m flawed and continue to make mistakes, there will be some new stories, too.
My first Daisy No. 25 pump gun
I had a paper route and when my sister’s latest boyfriend wanted to score some points (he didn’t last long), he sold me his 1936-version of the Daisy No. 25 pump BB gun. It was the Weatherby Magnum of the BB gun world back in the 1950s.
For three days, I was king of the hill, lording my good fortune over the neighbor kid who was making the best of a tired old lever-action Daisy 102 that shot to the left. My gun would shoot through one side of a tin can (the airgun chronograph of the 1950s), while his would only make a dent.
However, on day four, when I went to shoot my new prize, the BB just rolled out the muzzle after I pulled the trigger. I was beside myself and immediately went into the repairman mode, stripping the gun as far as I could with just a screwdriver, pliers and a lot of personal angst.
When the parts were far enough apart that I’d never be able to get them together again, I put them all in a paper grocery bag and sold them for a quarter to someone. I just wanted the gun out of my sight to forget the sad memory as soon as possible, and I thought the guy who bought the parts was a friend.
Several days later, the “friend” brings the whole gun back and shows me that it shoots fine. “My old man put it together for me. He told me you have to oil them every so often to keep the leather seals working, you dope!”
At that exact moment, I became a collector of Daisy No. 25 guns, and a potential airgun writer with his first cool anecdote. This is probably the tenth time I’ve told that tale, so I’m slowly ammortizing the pain though the catharsis of writing.
My Sheridan Supergrade
They don’t shoot any better than a Blue Streak, nor are they more accurate; but Sheridan Supergrades have held a fascination for me ever since I read about them in the first Airgun Digest. Just like the former owner of what became the Golconda diamond mines, I wasn’t poor until I knew what a Supergrade was and I didn’t have one.
Mine was an “honest” gun, which means that it worked and wasn’t a junker, but it had the signs of use. It was accurate, but no more so than a Crosman Town and Country 107 I owned at the same time. But it was a genuine Supergrade and it was mine!
Then I was forced to sell it and while doing so I told myself that when circumstances improved I could always by another one. But like the old doctor in the movie Field of Dreams, the man known as Moonlight Graham in the single inning of major league baseball he ever played, what I didn’t know was that was the only day I would have. Supergrades went through the roof and now I absolutely refuse to pay what it takes to buy one in a condition similar to what I once had. So, I’m going to continue to sit by the curb and make mudpies and pout.
A .22-250 custom rifle
I was young and stupid and didn’t know that all centerfire rifles cannot hit hovering bumblebees at 100 yards. My .22-250 was a nondescript custom job on a 98 Mauser action with a Douglas Premium barrel. I had the loading dies, brass and exact loads to put five into a half-inch group downrange. What I didn’t have was the presence of mind to hold on to this most accurate rifle I ever shot. I forget what I traded it for or how much money I may have received for it, but I do know that it wasn’t as good. I’ve been searching for an accurate .22 centerfire rifle ever since.
A .458 Winchester Magnum
Sure, it’s an elephant rifle, but the guy who sold it to me at a local gun show also sold me the dies and the bullet mold and gave me all the cases I’d ever need to shoot the rifle. He also gave me the light load it preferred, and that was the first rifle I ever shot 10-shot groups with. I did that only because I was mesmerized by all the bullets passing through the same hole in the 100-yard target.
I was so stupid about guns that I thought all .458s would do the same as that Springfield-based custom gun. Now, I know better and continue to search for accurate big bores that can do as well. Perhaps, someday, I’ll get the Ballard to turn in a group equal to what I once owned and stupidly traded away.
Ruger Blackhawk flattop with a 10-inch barrel
It was a great gun that I could load heavy but never seemed to kick me beyond my ability to absorb it. It wasn’t a cowboy gun and, at the time, I thought the sun rose and set under the rampant Colt. I traded off the Ruger, telling myself that I could always buy another one…if I don’t mind selling off a handful of my other favorites. I see them on Gun Broker from time to time and two thousand will buy one in good shooting condition these days. Once again, I refuse to be taken advantage of my own stupidity. Press onward and never look back is my motto.
Savage Anschutz .22 Magnum
This one is painful because it just happened this past weekend. I took my deluxe Savage Anschutz .22 Magnum bolt-action to lay on my table just to fill some empty space. I put a price on it that I was certain would insult everyone, because I really did not want to sell this rifle. Sure enough, a dealer walked up and paid my full price before the show opened. Mac later saw it on his table with another $125 on the price.
Back to airguns
If it seems like I’ve loved and lost more firearms than airguns, it’s because I have. I’ve been shooting firearms as long as I have airguns and have owned many times more of them over the years. But there are also some more airguns I’ve sold that I shouldn’t have. You generally find out that you shouldn’t have sold a gun when you find that you cannot stop thinking about it after it’s gone. For that reason, I know I’ll have difficulty selling the current crop of 10-meter rifles I own.
Air Arms Shamal
But many years ago, I bought an Air Arms Shamal .22-caliber PCP. That rifle had a fill pressure of just 2,600 psi, yet it developed 20 honest foot-pounds over 20+ shots. The rifle had a gorgeous walnut stock, but that wasn’t what caught my fancy. It was the incredible accuracy that could put five pellets into the same hole at 40 yards. Aside from one other British-made airgun, this was the most accurate .22 air rifle I’ve ever tested.
I sold it in a moment of weakness when I was panicked over money. I would probably do the same thing again, but I’m fortunate not to have been in the same financial straits for many years.
I would do it again
My last story has a happy ending, despite the fact that I don’t have the gun. Fifteen years ago, I was heavy into tuning FWB 124 air rifles. I found them, tuned them and resold them to finance the next batch of similar air rifles. However, in all the confusion, I tuned one rifle that stands out from all the rest. It was a 124 Deluxe sold by Beeman back in the late 1980s, and it looked just like hundreds of other 124s, only this one was different. It turned out to be the hottest 124 that ever passed through my hands. After the tune, it was putting Crosman Premier lites out the spout at 881 f.p.s. with complete smoothness.
I knew it was a great airgun when I owned it, but familiarity finally bred, if not contempt, at least disregard, and I allowed it to go in a trade. The good news is where it went. My buddy Mac got the rifle and still owns it today. He says it still shoots as fast and smooth as ever and that makes me glad.
If I’ve learned anything over the years, it’s this one truth. You may probably never, again, have the chance to acquire something as nice as what you now have. You should take the time to acknowledge when something is so good that it catches your attention. It probably does that for a good reason, and you should learn to listen to your gut when this happens.
I know something else, too. I don’t have the time to enjoy all the wonderful things there are. If I take the time to enjoy fewer things more, rather than more things in less time, it turns out well. And that’s my advice for today.